Local San Diego Democrats Have a Woman Problem

by on March 13, 2017 · 0 comments

in History, Politics, San Diego, Women's Rights

I am afraid. And I am not the only one.

By Anonymous Is a Woman / San Diego Free Press

A handful of Democratic women saw each other at the ADEM elections for the first time since the holidays. For some, it’s the first time they had come out for an event since the election. For others, this was their third event that weekend.

After a few minutes of small talk and “Holy-crap-the-world-is-ending” Trump commentary, the conversation becomes a bit more hushed when one of the women asked, “So what do you think about this Mickey Kasparian situation?”

Voices automatically lower.

Some gossip passes back and forth, but the theme to the conversation seems to be less about Mickey and more about the fact that we don’t feel like we can talk about this without repercussion.

I’ve had this same conversation with other women in Democratic circles for the last few months. Many of us are worried about an emerging pattern, and none of us feel safe to talk about it.

Since Filner, local rhetoric around supporting women in politics has been on the rise. But in practice, many of us still see the decisions being made by the central committee, executive board, elected officials, and other leaders within our ranks and wonder if those people slept through the whole debacle.

In the 2016 election cycle, three democratic candidates for office were accused of some kind of abuse toward women.

Supervisor Dave Roberts had multiple female staffers quit and accuse him of creating a hostile work environment. The San Diego Democratic Party still endorsed him for another term in elected office.

Rafael Castellanos, who had a lawsuit filed against him in 2010 alleging sexual assault, was thought to be the front-runner in the race for San Diego City Attorney, and was the top vote getter in the central committee primary election endorsement for that race. (Ultimately the Party did not endorse in that race until the general election endorsement of Mara Elliott.)

In September, headlines informed us Col. Doug Applegate, arguably our best chance to unseat Darrell Issa in years, had been accused of abusing and stalking his wife. She was awarded two restraining orders and he was court mandated to give up his firearms. Local Democratic support held strong and the national party continued to pour in money.

All of these men ultimately lost their bids for office. But what if they hadn’t? And what if we subjected hundreds of female staffers, community members, and volunteers to abusive behavior? The way we did with Bob Filner.

On election night women all over the country watched in horror as a man who openly bragged about sexual assault and treating women “like shit” won the White House, and made many of the things we fear the most socially acceptable. We held Republicans responsible.

I thought to myself, “This is why I am a Democrat.”

And then right after Christmas the news about Mickey broke. The whisper campaign on Sandy started immediately. Then there was another lawsuit. And another. And whisper campaigns have grown to include not only the women in the lawsuits, but the women who have the nerve to ask for justice on their behalf.

The silence from labor and party leadership, elected officials, progressive allies, and women’s organizations is deafening.

How is it that you claim to be the party that supports women but you cannot cleanse these men from your own ranks? Why do so many women I know who are so passionate about so many issues not feel like it is safe to speak on this one? And, even more simply, can’t we find better candidates and leaders?

I am a frequent campaign volunteer. Although I am not wealthy by any means, I have donated multiple times to local candidates. I attend club meetings and rallies and fundraisers. I have been fighting along side you for a long time.

And I am afraid.

I’m afraid to share this opinion publically. I’m afraid the party will do nothing about it. I’m afraid that some candidate in 2018 or 2020 might be the next Filner, and that San Diego democrats will actively support him, even knowing the risk.

For my own part, I cannot control the central committee or other party leaders. However, I can control myself.

From this point on, I will not volunteer for any male Democratic candidates until the party can show progress toward solving this issue. I will not knock doors, or donate time or money, or take a yard sign. No matter how long I have known you, or how much I like you. Incumbent or first timer. I will no longer pick up the phone.

Also, I will not attend any more labor rallies or pickets until the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council removes Kasparian from his position.

I’m sorry to all the lovely, innocent, feminist men that will lose resources because of this move. But until candidates are more selectively supported, and leadership stands up for women in our movement, I will pretend I cannot tell the difference. Just like they do.

Inspired by #DayWithoutAWoman, I am calling this personal boycott #CampaignWithoutAWoman.

I wish I could say this in public. But I have been effectively silenced by an environment that accepts inhumane behavior if it means a possible political win, and punishes principled questions if the answers may lead to political damage.

I am afraid. And I am not the only one. And regardless of the guilt or innocence of Mickey Kasparian or anyone else, the fear women are feeling is the real heart of the issue. And until that is addressed, many local democratic candidates will be campaigning with at least one less supporter.

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